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Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

What Alex Smith Is (Supposedly) Looking For Doesn't Exist

After the news Andy Dalton signed an extension with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, discussions restarted amongst fans about what the Chiefs should do with Alex Smith. Depending on who you talk to the Dalton deal either means positive things for the Chiefs or absolutely nothing.

One of the people who thinks the Dalton contract means nothing to the Smith negotiations is the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger, who wrote this morning he thinks what Smith is asking for is in no way related to what Colin Kaepernick and Dalton received this offseason. Here’s part of Mellinger’s argument:

Dalton and Kaepernick are getting life-changing money after making — relative to NFL quarterbacks — peanuts. Smith already has life-changing money, and by all indications has been responsible with it. So he doesn’t need the quick payday. Also, he values stability more than a guy coming off his rookie deal and isn’t likely to go for what is realistically only a two-year guarantee.

Those are both critical points, from Smith’s side.

Mellinger is absolutely correct about the different perspectives between Smith and the two younger quarterbacks. The negotiating positions for both of them are indeed very different and thus the ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ in a contact dispute are going to be different. It would make sense that certain concessions Kaepernick and Dalton were willing to give up may not be the same as what Smith would be willing to concede.

The problem comes to what it is Smith actually wants: Stability.

You can expect Smith to want a deal more in line with Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford.

Here’s where Mellinger – and potentially Smith – loses me. First, if what Smith is looking for is stability – and that seems to be in the indication, he wants a longterm commitment – the dollar amount shouldn’t matter, even if super agent Tom Condon refuses to give in on financial demands. Ultimately this is a decision for Smith, and if he wants stability then he’s going to need to give up some money. And if you read Mellinger’s first bit about Smith not needing a quick payday because he’s already made ‘life-changing money” well then sacrificing cash for security shouldn’t be an issue for him.

The problem here is stability doesn’t exist in the NFL in terms of contracts. How many times have we seen players cut one or two years into a mega deal or a player hold out of more money halfway through their contract? NFL contracts are so fungible that locking down long term security in terms of years basically doesn’t exist.

Look at the three contracts Mellinger mentioned: Stafford, Romo, and Cutler.

CUTLER

Cutler signed a seven-year, $126.7 million in January 2013, and has already restructured it once in order to save the Bears about $5 million in cap space for 2014. But even with the big numbers and ‘seven-year’ number, Cutler’s contract is still only a three-year guaranteed deal.

From Pro Football Talk:

Per a source with knowledge of the deal, Cutler will make $54 million over the next three years, with a rolling guarantee that starts at $17.5 million upon signing…

After 2016, the deal becomes a year-to-year, no-cap-hit proposition.

Cutler received no signing bonus when he signed his deal, which means the Bears can cut him after the 2015 season and owe no penalty against the salary cap. Essentially got a three-year deal with a year-to-year stipulation afterwords. Sound familiar?

Note: The restructuring of Cutler’s contract involved taking $5 million in salary and converting it into a signing bonus. This means Chicago would save ‘only’ $14 million by cutting Cutler after the 2015 season as opposed to saving $17 million.

ROMO

Romo signed his contract in March of 2013 and, like Cutler, has already restructured it once. His deal was for six years and $108 million with a $25 million signing bonus. Only the first two years of his contract were guaranteed. In his original deal the Cowboys could have cut Romo after this season – 2014 – and saved money against the cap.

Instead, Dallas chose to restructure his contract and converted some salary into a signing bonus which means Romo is likely to be with the team through 2016.

So, again, another quarterback who is basically on a two year deal with the team having the flexibility to cut him after those two seasons.

STAFFORD

Stafford really shouldn’t be on this list because of his age but Mellinger included him because he is a Tom Condon client and because Stafford was one of the last players to benefit from the previously lucrative rookie scale.

In Stafford’s deal he is guaranteed more money per season than any quarterback in football, but the total amount of his contract was worth a smaller $53 million over just three years. Stafford signed his deal in July of last year.

But once again we find this commitment has another out clause. The Lions can cut Stafford, even with his huge guaranteed money number, after the 2015 season and save about $11.5 million in cap space. In truth, Stafford’s contract, which included the final year of his rookie deal, was just an added two years of commitment beyond the 2013 season.

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Here’s what I’m getting at: If what Smith is looking for is a longterm commitment that guarantees he will be in Kansas City for the next seven years, he’s not going to get it. Such contract simply do not exist in the NFL.

Should John Dorsey be able to get a deal done with Smith before the start of the season, Dorsey can load some of the bonus money into the 2014 salary cap and make the Smith cap hit easier to handle in 2015 and beyond. But what it also means is that if the Chiefs give Smith a three-year commitment, one of those years would be 2014 which would put the Chiefs on the hook for only 2015 and 2016 – two years some Chiefs fans have called for Smith to be franchise tagged in.

Finally, there is this statement from Smith back in April about his contract situation:

“I’ve played long enough, going into year 10 now, it’s all year-to-year in my mind anyway at this point,” said Smith, who was acquired from San Francisco in a trade in 2013. “You’ve got to continually prove yourself. I don’t think it changes anything as far as my mindset or approach to the game.”

Smith knows this is a year-to-year gig in the NFL no matter what deal he signs with the Chiefs. Keep in mind he had completed just one year of a three-years, $25 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers before he was traded to the Chiefs.

It is because of what Smith said back in April and the contracts Mellinger sited in his column that I am starting the question the narrative on Smith wanting stability. Reality is this is probably Smith’s last big payday, and Smith has to feel like he’s earned the right to get paid as well, if not better, than Kaepernick and Dalton, and be put in the realm of Romo and Cutler.

This is about money and pride. And because the Chiefs can easily get out of a deal if they wish, Dorsey should give it to him.

Tags: Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs

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